Why did Roland Emmerich's 'Stonewall' average only $871 per theater?

To put it nicely, Roland Emmerich's "Stonewall" didn't fare well at the box office. The film opened at No. 25 over the weekend, grossing just $112,414 in 129 theaters, a per-theater average of just $871, according to research firm Rentrak. By comparison the Mandarin-language “Lost in Hong Kong” grossed an estimated $558,900 on 27 screens in the U.S. and Canada, a per-theater average of $20,700. 

The low turnout for "Stonewall" does not come as a surprise to some. Backlash over the film, which dramatizes the 1969 gay-rights riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York, began when the trailer surfaced in August.

SIGN UP for the free Indie Focus movies newsletter >>

Some complained that the film does not accurately portray the real heroes of history but rather paints a fictional, white male character -- Danny Winters (played by Jeremy Irvine) -- as the LGBT community's hero.

One commenter on the trailer wrote: "This 'Danny' is fictional. The first people to pick up a brick and riot were transwomen of colour and other queers of colour, not some small town corn fed white boy."

Fast forward a month and a half and the film's Rotten Tomatoes score echoes the negative buzz. The drama has a 9% positive rating, with many critics lambasting its attempt to depict a pivotal moment in American history.

Vanity Fair critic Richard Lawson called the film "terribly offensive, and offensively terrible."

The New York Times review said "except for its identification of actual police officers, 'Stonewall' doesn’t bother to distinguish among facts, fiction and urban legend."

And the Los Angeles Times said that "the proceedings can seem less like a fresh retelling of a seminal story and more like, despite stabs at grit and terror, a theatricalized, dewy-eyed version of days past."

Moviegoers took to social media to express their sentiments about the film's take on history.

With such poor reviews for the film, some analysts said a lower box-office gross was inevitable.

"We're in Oscars season right now. Reviews matter more than they do any other time of year," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "This wasn't a movie that people responded to, and word got out there pretty quickly."

But in an interview with Buzzfeed, Emmerich, who has directed films such as "Godzilla" and "The Day After Tomorrow," was somewhat taken aback by the negative responses.

“When [the criticism first] happened it wasn’t about the film, it was about the trailer,” he said. “And I thought, That’s not right.” 

Still, he said, some people warned him about the backlash. “But I said, ‘Well, you know, so be it.’”

Contrino said he is not surprised that "Stonewall" "kind of died really fast."

"If the momentum is not there and reviews aren't there, this kind of thing can happen," he said.

Roadside Attractions, the film's distributor, did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment. 

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World